Static in radio frequencies disrupting commuications between pilots, El Paso airport tower

FCC investigating communication interference at airport

EL PASO, Texas - A federal agency is investigating an aircraft communications problem that is making it difficult for Borderland pilots to talk to the control tower.

For the past year, aircraft in the El Paso area have been encountering bursts of static intermittently on some radio frequencies for communication between planes and the control tower.

About 91,000 planes landed and took off from El Paso International Airport last year.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it isn't a safety hazard, but some of those flights have been hearing the static.

"We were made aware of the interference about three weeks ago," said ABC-7 Chief Engineer Elias Ventanilla.

Ventanilla has been working with other broadcast engineers in town to figure out if the interference is coming from one of the television or radio station towers dotting the southern tip of the Franklin Mountains

The FAA has asked the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to investigate the source of the problem.

In a statement, FAA Public Affairs Manager Lynn Lunsford said, "For about a year now, we've been experiencing intermittent static lasting a second or two on some frequencies. It isn't causing safety problems, but it's an annoyance that we're trying to chase down. The FCC has equipment that should help us do that."

The FCC won't comment on on-going investigations, but it's been a priority for Ventanilla and other engineers in the area to track down and fix the source of the static.

"The problem is that it's very disruptive on the communication," Ventanilla said. "As you can understand, that communication is crucial. So when there's disruption in the communication, they - the pilots and tower - have to switch to a back-up frequency, to another frequency."

Aviation experts said switching to a back-up frequency is standard procedure when there are communication problems.

So while the situation is workable, it's something the FCC will be looking to fix in the very near future. Ventanilla said several transmitters, including ABC-7's, have been eliminated as possible sources.

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